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Inspiring and motivating this community is mission critical as they shape our cities

After a year of upheaval, Zoom, Teams and sensory deprivation, too many placemakers and cityshapers are running on empty. With Festival of Place: Social Impact, we’re helping them find a new groove, writes Christine Murray

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We're creating a shared experience at Festival of Place: Social Impact
We're creating a shared experience at Festival of Place: Social Impact

Back in December, we ran a focus group on the future of online events. We found out that our community of developers, designers and planners, stuck in their homes and neighbourhoods, are running on empty. They crave real experiences, and are working flat out, having taken no holiday and few breaks. Yet their design and development of our cities continue apace with major projects pushing ahead.


Inspiring and motivating this community of professionals to support them in making a positive difference through their work feels mission critical to me. But as a mother of three, I get that days are short. It’s hard to carve out time for personal enrichment.


That’s why I set out to create a small, yet perfectly-formed programme for Festival of Place: Social Impact that takes place across five long lunches, from 1pm-3pm, during the week of 22-26 March.


Our online platform Airmeet is as good as it gets for digital events, but I’m also aware that, after a year of upheavals and sensory deprivation, we need to Zoom out a bit. So I enlisted Malcolm Hamilton, Director of Play:Disrupt, to design real-life sensory activities to spark creativity, improve your memory through kinesthetic learning and create a unique shared experience in real life and online.


Malcolm has created our special Festival pack – a box of tricks – that will be sent to every UK attendee in the post with activities to accompany the sessions.


Our special Festival pack – a box of tricks – will be sent to every UK attendee in the post


I also reached out to publishers to create a bundle of books at a discount that you can choose to include with your ticket purchase. Written by our speakers, the book bundle includes Richard Sennett and Pablo Sendra’s Designing Disorder, Engendering Cities by Inés Sánchez de Madariaga and Carlos Moreno’s ebook, Urban city and proximity at the time of Covid-19. International attendees will receive all ebooks.


As for the speakers, that’s the most exciting part. We’ll be joined by:


Richard Sennett, senior advisor to the UN on climate change and cities and Pablo Sendra, associate professor in planning and urban design at The Bartlett School of Planning who will be speaking about interventions we can make in sterile public spaces to transform them into resilient and vibrant places.


Inés Sánchez de Madariaga, UNESCO Chair on Gender in Science Technology and Innovation, will be speaking about how we can scientifically plan and create policies to produce gender equitable places. Imandeep Kaur, Co-founder and Director, Civic Square, on doughnut economics and how professionals be agents of positive change within the industry while Amahra Spence, Co-founder and Creative Director, Maia, will talk about how we redistribute resources, decolonise frameworks and increase spatial justice.


Anne Thorne, Founder, Anne Thorne Architects, will speak about how we can design sustainable community homes that people love, and Carlos Moreno, scientist and creator of the 15-minute city, on mixed neighbourhoods, clean air, small offices, local healthcare and fresh food, while Jeff Risom, Chief Innovation Officer, Gehl, on how places are communal ecosystems, from streets to energy and food.


More speakers will be announced soon, but our lowest price on tickets ends Friday, 19 February with our early bird discount on Festival passes and the Plus pass with the book bundle. You can book on our website. As ever we have a limited number of free and discounted passes available by application.


I’m determined to make this a fulfilling and energising event to help shape a future where this community can make a positive social impact on places, and I look forward to you taking part.


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